Besides the elites, which I covered in last article, there are always stories of open wave competitors getting injured. The two “high profile” examples are the viral stories of that person that got some rare eye disease from one of the mud pits and the women that is suing the sponsors of Spartan for her falling off a volunteers shoulders, it naturally raises the question of how safe this sport is?
Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) never claimed to be the safest sport. In fact, most of its advertising pitches are predicated on it being challenging, which tends to have a positive correlation with risk. Things like “Probably the toughest event on the planet”, “You will know at the finish line”, “Savage as F@#$” and “Battling is believing” scream things like challenge and pain. While it is reasonable to expect there will not be serious danger like an obstacles collapsing, sharp hidden manmade obstacles in the water and sharp edges that would result in bleeding from grabbing an obstacle, the general activities you are asked to participate in is on some level inherently dangerous if you do not possess the physical ability to complete them.
No one said climbing over cargo nets 20 feet in the air was safe, nor is jumping over fire or hanging from obstacles as you attempt to cross rigs/bars/etc. until your grip strength gives out. This risk of injury is part of our sport though and if you wanted the safest alternative, you should go do one of the inflatable obstacle OCRs or maybe a foam run (although it’s only a matter of time until someone claims some debilitating blindness on the chemical makeup of the foam and their one in a million allergy).
Furthermore, let’s all remember the viral stories are one in a million. No one posts about every car crash on Facebook saying “see look how dangerous driving is, everyone stay inside”…but for some reason my non-OCR friends feel the need to inform me of every horrific OCR story.
If you read the last article about the elites, you may be thinking, if they cannot prevent injury then how can I prevent injury? Just like a lot of the tips I covered in the last article, preventing injury is about increasing volume slowly and incrementally. The general rule for running volume is no more than 10% volume increase each week. You should also remember that volume alone does not produce stress, effort also plays a big role, so even if your volume decreased but this week you are doing more interval workouts or lots of downhill runing, then there still might be an increase in stress. Furthermore, working on grip strength and sport specific movements (pull-ups, hanging from hands, monkey bars, wall climbs, etc.) can help reduce the chance for a fall caused by muscle failure.
This same incremental increase goes with signing up for major events. If you have never run more than 20 miles or never covered 50 miles in a week (or even worse…a month), why do you think you will be able to cover 50 miles in 24 hours at World’s Toughest Mudder without injury? I am not saying going from your longest event being 3 hours to one that is 24 hours is impossible without injury, just that you will increase your chance for bodily harm if you do not put in the proper training required to safely cover that distance. Yes your muscles and mind might be willing, but your tendons, ligaments and bones (which adapt slower) may not be ready for such a large influx of stress. One solution for those going for the black headband is back to back (Saturday and Sunday) long runs (long being relative to the athlete) which can help add stress to your body without overdoing it like a single ultra-long run.
You will have trouble finding a runner whose longest run was a half marathon lining up on the start line of an ultra, OCR should not be any different. In a sport that stresses toughness (#STFU), we can easily get confused between toughing it out after proper training and participating in events we are ill prepared for. To safely complete your race you should have STFU for the last four months of training by getting out of bed every day and getting on the road/trail. If you have been sleeping in during your train up and just wait until the day of the event to STFU…you are asking for an injury.
For the open waves, on many levels preventing injury is actually easier. Unlike the elite who is trying to find that perfect physical limit and is worried about performance to the second, the open wave competitor is out there for fun (and maybe a little competition). This means if you are having a bad week at work, are stressed out or just exhausted from exercise, you can take a week off without drastic effects on your overall training protocol. Just remember you may want to redo a training week or two instead of trying to progress based off your last workout from two weeks ago.
Did you miss the first in the series. Read part 1 here.
Thanks to Jim for suggesting the topic of this article
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